You have one day free and you’re looking to escape New York City with the kids. Or maybe you’re on a vacation to the Big Apple and want to dip your toes into the surrounding area. Whether you want parks, museums or animals, there’s plenty to do within a hour or two of the city. Shannon Entin of TheTVTraveler.com shares some of the best day trips from New York City you can take with your kids.
Best Day Trips from NYC With Kids
The Crayola Experience
About 1.5 hours from NYC, the Crayola Experience in Easton, Penn., lets you and your kids spend the day immersed in color, imagination, and technology.
There are four floors of activities at Crayola. The first floor houses the Cafe and Crayola Store – don’t miss the big wall of color where you can assemble your own pack of crayons or markers! But you probably want to save that until the end of your day.
On the 2nd floor your kids can create a design on the giant Lite-Brite board, design art that comes alive in a display on the walls, and sculpt with Model Magic. My daughter was drawn immediately to the “Be a Star” attraction where she chose a background and had her photo turned into a coloring page.
The 3rd floor is all about motion. Dance with animated crayons, climb and slide on the giant play structure, draw on the chalk floor, or splash a crayon boat through the 85-ft water play table.
If your child is more about the artwork than the playtime, head to the 4th floor. Drip Art is Crayola’s take on spin art – melt your crayons over spinning paper and make a stunning design. The Meltdown is also a favorite, where kids can paint with melted wax.
Grounds for Sculpture
An hour and a half south of NYC in Hamilton, NJ, is an amazing outdoor sculpture park. Grounds for Sculpture will wow your whole family with amazing art sculptures presented in a fun and unique way.
The 42-acre park on a lake is a beautiful spot to spend a day getting lost among the artwork. With rich foliage and landscaping, you’ll love roaming the grounds and delight in discovering a new art sculpture at every turn. Several are interactive and allow kids to climb on or in the sculptures and some even make music!
Tours are available and led by highly trained docents. Visitors can take an Outdoor Walking Tour, Indoor Walking Tour (there are three buildings with more art and rotating exhibits), or a HortiSculpture Tour that offers insight into the relationship between the art and landscape of Grounds For Sculpture. Not all tours are available all days, so be sure to call ahead if you are interested.
Grounds for Sculpture is also home to several peacocks that roam the grounds freely. Kids absolutely love watching the peacocks and can often get quite close to them.
Pack a picnic lunch or enjoy one of the cafes on site. For a more upscale dining experience, make a reservation at Rat’s Restaurant. Yes, it’s an odd name for a restaurant, but the food is phenomenal and the ambiance even better.
Liberty Science Center
The spacious layout and hands-on exhibits at Liberty Science Center draw you in to the wonder of science and experimentation. Located in Jersey City, NJ, Liberty Science Center is 30-45 minutes NYC.
In the “Skyscraper!” exhibit, kids can suit up in goggles and ponchos to experience 100 mph hurricane-force wind and rain while learning how engineers test a building’s behavior in high winds. The “Energy Quest” and “Got Power?” exhibits get kids experimenting with various ways to make things go. We used various forms of power to race cars, light up bulbs, move fans and spin wheels.
You’ll want to grab a seat and relax at the “Wonder Why” exhibit while the kids climb the rock wall, make a 6-foot soap bubble, and balance a beach ball on a stream of air. I couldn’t get my kids to move on until I mentioned the Touch Tunnel. The 80-foot long, crawl-through pitch-black maze that has been the hands-down favorite at LSC for years. I tried it myself, and it’s an eye-opening experience feeling your way through complete and utter darkness.
There are many other interactive exhibits and they rotate regularly. Check the web site for the most up-to-date information.
Turtle Back is the best zoo in New Jersey, in my opinion. Located in West Orange, NJ, it’s reachable in under an hour from NYC.
Kids love animals, and this zoo offers a lot to see. There are penguins, sea lions, cougars, wolves, monkeys, reptiles, bears and more! You can climb into a viewing tunnel and watch prairie dogs scurrying around you. And don’t miss the aquarium and touch tank. My kids love all the animal encounters available at this zoo.
The Outback Aviary – home to over 500 free flight Australian grass parakeets, as well as kookaburras and lorikeets – is one of my family’s favorite experiences. Visitors can purchase a feed stick and have birds literally eating out of their hands.
There’s also a fun train ride, a carousel, and pony rides. For older kids, Turtleback Zoo has a treetop adventure ropes course and a safari mini golf course.
Diggerland USA is a construction-themed adventure park in West Berlin, NJ. About an hour and 45 minutes from the city, Diggerland gives kids the chance to drive, ride, and operate heavy machinery in a safe, family-friendly environment.
There aren’t too many young boys who didn’t love construction vehicles at some point in their lives. We had a bucket of Matchbox construction trucks and I would regularly seek out construction sites where my son could watch the machines work. But even if your kids are out of the Matchbox stage, this park will thrill them – and I promise you’ll enjoy it too!
One thing you need to know about Diggerland is that the machines are real. These aren’t rides that look like construction trucks – they are construction trucks turned into rides! Visitors can bowl or dig for treasure with a mini-excavator, dig holes with a giant digger, drive a dumper truck, backhoe, and skid steer, and get lifted 50 feet in the air by a telehandler. It’s a fantastically unique spin on the average theme park adventure.
New York City offers convenient access to New Jersey, Connecticut and upstate New York. Depending on the time of year you visit, you might also want to head up to the mountains to enjoy fall foliage, or down to the Jersey Shore for a beach day. Whatever you choose, there are tons of fun day trips from New York City with kids!
Feeling most at home when on the road, Shannon Entin grew up under the impression that the highest form of family fun was driving aimlessly to get anywhere. Today, Shannon takes her own family on extended driving adventures, crisscrossing America – from the Jersey Shore to the San Francisco Bay, Niagara Falls to Gulf Shores, AL, and beyond – always ready to veer off the interstate to investigate a quirky attraction, TV filming location, or local delicacy. Shannon shares her family’s travels and adventures at TheTVTraveler.com.